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Barry Hirstius

Sean Payton-Gregg Williams Rematch Adds “Spice” to Saints Pre-Season Opener

Last November 27th in the Superdome was a either a very memorable or a very forgettable date on the calendar in the 2016 NFL season, depending on which side of the field you were on that day. For Saints head coach Sean Payton, it was probably the highlight of an otherwise disappointing year that saw the Saints finish 7-9 and miss out on the NFL Playoffs for a 3rd straight season.

It was on that day that Sean Payton's Saints offense destroyed the Los Angeles Rams defense, who were being coached by his former friend and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the man whose role in the infamous Saints Bountygate scandal is well-known in Who Dat Nation lore.

Photo courtesy of The New Orleans Times-Picayune

It's not exactly a secret that the two men don't care for one another; and it was obvious on that day through his surprising displays of emotion that included a rather voracious fist pump and an extended stare across the field at the Rams' sideline after Drew Brees snuck over the top at the goal line for a Saints TD, that the game and a chance to show up Williams was something that meant quite a lot to Payton.

And then just to emphatically make his feelings known: Payton then dipped into his "bag of tricks".

What he then pulled out, was a play in which WR Willie Snead caught a screen pass from Drew Brees behind the line of scrimmage and then took one step back before throwing a 50-yard "flea-flicker" TD pass to RB Tim Hightower.

 

Point taken. Message received.

"I don't like you and I'm going to rub it in your face --- and there's not a damn thing that you can do about it".

Sean Payton's Saints offense on that day put up 555 yards of total offense, tied for the most yards given up by a Gregg Williams defense in a non-overtime game, per The New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Photo courtesy of Michael DeMocker, The New Orleans Times-Picayune

By the time that it was all said and done, the final score that flashed overhead on the Mercedes-Benz Superdome main scoreboard read: Saints 49, Rams 21.

And now as fate would have it, the two men will now meet up with each once again this Thursday Night, as the Saints travel to FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio to face the Browns in the first one of this year's 4 Pre-Season games.

Williams is in his first season as the Browns' new defensive coordinator; and as ESPN Browns beat writer Pat McManamon notes, the loud and "in-your-face" approach of Williams is a complete contrast to the cerebral approach of former Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton a year ago.

In this year's Draft, the Browns added the #1 overall pick -- defensive end / edge pass rusher extraordinaire Myles Garrett -- to put alongside returning and talented defensive linemen Emmanuel Ogbah and Danny Shelton; giving the Browns one of the more impressive young D-Lines currently in all of the NFL.

The Browns also have dynamic rookie sensation Jabril Peppers at safety, and McManamon notes that it's clear that the Browns hope to win with defense; and they've entrusted that side of the ball to Williams --- who will not be shy about his approach or his feelings.

Photo courtesy of Diamond Images

Given the Browns' notable offensive struggles, it will be up to Williams and his young pupils to help Cleveland improve on their 1-15 mark of last year.

With this being only a Pre-Season game, it's unlikely that we'll see either of the two men "show their hands' all that much, since they'll both want to save up their best scheming and play-calling for the regular season.

But nevertheless, there's always a very good possibility that we'll see them both dip into the proverbial bag of tricks on more than one occasion, just to "rub it in".

One thing you can almost be certain of: with Saints 3rd year and back-up QB Garrett Grayson likely to see an extensive amount of action in this contest, which will allow the Saints coaching staff to see how much significant progress he's made from last season (if any); you almost can be guaranteed that Williams will "unleash the hounds" on the Saints 3rd-string QB.

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

It all adds up to the promise of lending some excitement to an otherwise boring 1st game of the Pre-Season; in which each team's starters (including Drew Brees) will see little to no action that for the most part, is nothing more than a cameo appearance of a series or two.

In a game where both teams' main objectives will be to evaluate talent, determine the pecking order of the current depth chart, and hopefully come out of the game relatively unscathed with little to no significant injuries; the coincidental rematch between Sean Payton and Gregg Williams after last November's memorable meeting, will at least give Thursday Night's contest, a bit of "spice"..........

Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist and Lead Analyst Barry Hirstius is a 50-year old semi-retired journalist and former New Orleans area sports editor and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints NFL football team. Additionally, he is a frequent guest on a variety of Sports Talk Radio programs that cover the Saints. Barry is also a New Orleans native that dating all the way back to his childhood in the early 1970's, attended games at the old Tulane Stadium and grew up as a long-time Saints fan; following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.......

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